Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

Parent, Educator, Author

Part 2: Curiosity, Courage and Creativity as the Future of Higher Ed

“Our work is not merely to share information but to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students.”

-bell hoooks, Teaching to Transgress

hero's journey

Our work is to share in the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students. Our work, our work as college faculty. When I read these words by bell hooks, I was challenged. Of course I knew it was my work to help my students grow intellectually. And, having taught for the past 17 years in Christian higher education, my daily work does include the consideration of my students’ spiritual growth. But hooks is talking about all college faculty, from every discipline and type of institution. She claims that there is a sacred component of our work that cannot be overlooked if we are to fully engage with our students and help them move forward in their growth as both scholars and human beings. Her perspective calls us to consider the personal growth of our students, putting their intellectual growth in perspective of the whole of their person.

As I’ve thought about this, I keep coming back to the idea of learning as Hero’s Journey, discussed in this post on Learning as Storytelling. In order to call our students to consider their own learning as sacred, and to remind us of the beauty of the work that we do everyday, it’s important to frame learning appropriately. For me, the Hero’s Journey does just that. It allows me to call students to action and, from the very beginning, to name the fear and challenges that the student and even the class as a whole will face as we learn together. When we collectively acknowledge that our goal is to gain knowledge and that requires struggle, then we are prepared to work together through the challenges we face.

hooks’ quote also reminds me of what I discussed in the post The Future of Higher Ed: Isn’t it Obvious. As we consider the future of Higher Education, what questions are we asking? For example, are we asking, “What skills do students need in this highly engaged, connected, global world?” I’ve just started reading The New Education by Cathy N. Davidson and Robot-Proof by Joseph E. Aoun. Both of these books focus on considering what kinds of skills and insights students need in the world of today and the future, and how modern higher education might best serve them in gaining those. Although bell hooks wrote Teaching to Transgress  in the mid-90’s, this is just the kind of thing that she’s talking about as well. Our students are graduating and going into a world that will demand much of them, and it benefits all of us if we are considering how to help them build not just knowledge but critical thinking skills, creative problem-solving skills, communication skills and empathy. Creating higher education programming that is active, experiential and developmentally appropriate for the students’ level of knowledge will aid us in doing this.

Approaching learning as sacred and communal requires courage. Any teacher who has stood in front of a classroom full of new students knows that. Any student who has dared to share a different perspective in a full classroom knows that. Any administrator in today’s higher education landscape knows that. In the next few posts I’ll talk about strategies for creating a classroom and university environment that promotes courage.

Aoun, J. (2017). Robot-proof : higher education in the age of artificial intelligence. Cambridge, Massachusetts : The MIT Press, [2017].

Davidson, C. N. (2017). The new education : how to revolutionize the university to prepare students for a world in flux. New York : Basic Books, [2017].

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress : education as the practice of freedom. New York : Routledge, 1994.


One comment on “Part 2: Curiosity, Courage and Creativity as the Future of Higher Ed

  1. Pingback: Part 4: Courage and Leadership in the Future of Higher Ed | Dr. Jennifer W. Shewmaker

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This entry was posted on September 18, 2018 by in Creativity, edu, Education and Learning, Series, The Future of Higher Education.
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